Bankwest set to go ‘solely digital’ as it closes branches across the country

A major Australian bank has announced it is closing more branches, just months after its boss revealed it is pursuing an ‘almost exclusively digital’ future.

Bankwest, which serves 1.1 million customers across the country, recently announced the closure of three stores in Western Australia, citing a ‘boom in digital transactions and the rapid decline in demand for cash services’.

The bank, which has been owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) since 2008, sparked outrage in 2022 when it closed all 14 of its east coast branches.

Its only physical presence is now in Western Australia.

But even that is shrinking after it closed its Armadale branch in south-east Perth on January 18.

Bankwest, which serves 1.1 million customers across Australia, recently announced the closure of three stores in Western Australia, citing a 'boom in digital transactions and the rapid decline in demand for cash services'

Bankwest, which serves 1.1 million customers across Australia, recently announced the closure of three stores in Western Australia, citing a ‘boom in digital transactions and the rapid decline in demand for cash services’

CBA CEO Scott Comyn, who is ultimately responsible for Wesbank, hinted at a Senate inquiry in September last year that the subsidiary bank plans to further reduce its already dwindling number of branches and pursue an 'almost exclusively digital' future strive.

CBA CEO Scott Comyn, who is ultimately responsible for Wesbank, hinted at a Senate inquiry in September last year that the subsidiary bank plans to further reduce its already dwindling number of branches and pursue an ‘almost exclusively digital’ future strive.

In recent days the bank has announced the permanent closure of a further two branches: Maddington in Perth’s south-east and Kununurra in far northern WA, 45km from the Northern Territory border.

In August last year, Bankwest announced it was closing branches in Baldivis, South Perth and Osborne Park, following Subicao’s closure the previous month.

That same month, Bankwest’s general manager of personal banking, Scott Spittles, told a Senate inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia that they ‘expect to operate fewer Bankwest branches in the future’.

“Bankwest’s strategy is to grow as a digital and broker-first bank for homebuyers,” added Mr Spittles.

Mr Spittles claimed that over-the-counter transactions have declined by around 44 per cent in the past three years, while digital payments now account for 97 per cent of all transactions.

Bankwest did not respond to further requests for comment on whether it plans to close any more branches.

CBA has promised not to close any more branches until 2026.

However, Bankwest did not make the same commitment.

When asked about this at the Senate inquiry in September, CBA chief executive Scott Comyn, who is ultimately responsible for Wesbank, hinted that the subsidiary bank plans to further reduce its already dwindling number of branches.

“Strategically speaking, Bankwest is moving predominantly and probably over time almost exclusively digital,” Mr Comyn told the inquiry.

Mr Comyn admitted: ‘For those who value and like face-to-face and in-branch services, these will become rarer for Bankwest customers over time.’

He also revealed that the cost of providing cash to CBA customers is $400 million a year – or $40 each for its 10 million customers.

In February 2022, Bankwest announced that it was no longer offering new business accounts.

Bankwest's only physical presence is in Western Australia, but even that is declining

Bankwest’s only physical presence is in Western Australia, but even that is declining

Instead, new and existing customers will be redirected and switched to CommBank.

Last week, one Wesbank customer was ‘absolutely let down’ after being told he could not withdraw cash from a rural branch.

West Australian man Graeme Reid and his wife, who live in Latham, a country town about 300km north-east of Perth, embarked on a 130km round trip to their nearest Bankwest branch in Dalwallinu last week for $300 to withdraw

But Mr Reid’s wife was told she could not withdraw the cash and instructed to use the post office instead.

“I said, “if you can’t get money from a bank, you might as well close” and she (the teller) said, “Well, we weren’t told we were going to close, but I think it won’t be long before that happens, that’s what banks are doing now,” Mr Reid said ABC NEWS‘.